Friday 22 May 2015
At 04:40 the sky is overcast. It is much the same at 06:53.
Not long before 07:45, a boy is descending past the Efords’ driveway and then past the upper part of the school-house garden. I notice the pale-green and the pale-blue horizontal stripe on his dark anorak, and I suddenly realise he is Josh Wheeler. Maud and Mrs Wheeler are following, at a distance of some yards.
The Wheelers’ car is parked nose uphill alongside the Kingdoms’ house and the house adjoining. When the Wheelers have passed through the upper entrance of the school and are in the precinct, Maud is lagging behind her mother and brother. She gives one of her half-cheeky smiles. At the left of her head she has a light-coloured hairslide or clip, and a red one at the right of her head. She is last to pass out of view as the Wheelers approach the BE.
Mrs Wheeler has returned to her car, at a walking pace. She performs a three-point turn, then heads off towards George Street more quickly than usual — although she is departing no later than average.
I hear a crunching sound from somewhere to the rear of the Old Man’s house. It turns out to be Amos crunching on a bone. He is lying on the CJs’ back lawn, facing towards the house, near the gravel path.
At 08:32 Mrs Vest’s car ascends the kerb with a bump, and parks alongside number 35. When Mrs Vest has opened the nrd, Rufus gets out. He starts running on the spot, a few foot inboard of the nrd, smiling gleefully — it is almost half-term! Leah follows him out. Her hair is dark-straw-blonde, somewhat frizzy, and of neck length. From her left hand is dangling a big and very full TeraGroce carrier-bag. Mrs Vest has a slim black briefcase with a yellow-and-black sticker on the front, a chunky purple bag, and an oblong black handbag — all held with her left hand.
When the Vests are reaching the far side of the street, I notice that there again seems to be very little difference in height between Leah and Rufus. After she has descended some way on the far pavement, Mrs Vest looks over her right shoulder and clearly says: “Come on!” to Rufus who is lagging by about four yards. He willingly catches up with her; she takes his left hand, and they continue towards the middle entrance of the school with Leah walking behind Rufus.
Belle has parked her Escargot alongside Vinnie’s garden-gates. She sets off for the school with Sim inboard of her, and they pass first Mrs Daniels’ jeep-MPV and then Mrs Vest’s car. There is no sign of Blanche. When Belle crosses the street with Sim, I notice she is holding some papers in her right hand.
Mrs FW has parked at the boundary between the Old Man’s property and the CJs’ property, part-way onto the pavement.
When Belle drives off towards George Street, Mrs FW is following at a distance of thirty or forty yards.
Naomi tells me that she and her friends Jane and Jen have finally had their lunch, at the Pegasus restaurant on the southern fringes of the Banlieue. Naomi ate plaice and chips, followed by chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce. They plan to go there again, to celebrate Jen’s birthday.
Jen’s fourteen-year-old dog has recently died. After not having seen him for years, Naomi saw him very soon before his death.
Naomi’s eczema is bad at the moment. She lies awake in bed, scratching, and so does not get much sleep.
She says she will give me her DVD of Once Upon a Time in the West — the film is not to her taste.
Recently Naomi watched a TV programme about Africans who are supposedly a lost tribe of Israel.
In the late-morning school-run, a grey Trio approaches from the direction of George Street. I quickly recognise it as Orla’s car. It turns, and parks by number 35, above a Hyundai that has been there a while. Then Orla’s car moves further downslope, to a space opposite the lower railings (i.e. the railings that are alongside the lower entrance). The car protrudes six inches or more from the line of parked cars.
I don’t see Orla cross the street towards the school, but I do see another woman do so. She is a slim brunette in a white long-sleeve top, who crosses towards the lower entrance at an uphill diagonal.
Mr Tanbrit and Thomas ascend past Vinnie’s house, at a walking pace. Thomas is not wearing his red anorak. Mr Tanbrit is wearing a white baseball cap, and denims.
Orla crosses the street, returning to her car. She is wearing a long-sleeve pale-blue top, black trousers, and vestigial sandals. Her blonde hair is of shoulder length. With her is her younger son; he is about five years old, and has a mop of dark-blond hair; he is wearing a medium-grey T-shirt, and trousers of perhaps a slightly lighter grey which reach to just above his ankles. With her left hand, Orla is carrying the boy’s dark quilted anorak — it is hanging low, almost touching the ground. The boy reaches the ord, and stands there facing it. He doesn’t tug at the door-handle, but puts his hands flat onto the metal panel below the window.
Then the brunette in the white long-sleeve top returns from the school, with her child. She must call to Orla (who is standing at the driver’s door of her car) from the school side of the street, as a conversation between the two women starts before the brunette reaches the Trio. I see both of them speaking. Orla does not turn round. The woman reaches the tail of the Trio, continues to the pavement, and passes out of sight. Orla carries on speaking for another ten or fifteen seconds.
Orla drapes the dark quilted anorak over her left forearm. She unlocks the driver’s door, using the key.
When she departs, Orla steers well out into the roadway. At George Street she turns right.
At Sandbank Shoals there is only one customer in the shop when I arrive. Three members of staff are on duty: Very Tubby Woman is cooking, Bossy Woman is serving, and Young Girl is towards the back of the kitchen, standing in right-hand profile, eating something that is nestling on a little sheet of paper. She must be out of earshot when Bossy Woman refers to her as “Lady Jane”, clearly implying that she has been idling today while Bossy Woman has been doing all the work.
Bossy Woman is very pleasant with me. After serving me with my portion of chips, she adds a few extra.
The food is quite warm but is well-drained. My portion of fish consists of two medium-sized pieces. Some of the batter on the larger of the pieces is quite soft, but the rest of the batter is crisp enough. The chips are rather soft.
During the late-afternoon school-run, I notice an item of red clothing on the pavement, near the kerb, at the downhill end of Vinnie’s long hedge. Someone later drapes it over the hedge. It turns out to be a Superman cape.
Not long after that, a tiny girl is seated atop the wall of the school, facing out, just where the blond boy was seated yesterday afternoon. A woman who must be her mother is outboard of her, and just beyond the mother is an angry-looking boy about eight years old, wearing a Superman outfit — that outfit must be a popular choice today.
After the school-run is over, I mow the front lawn. The sky is cloudy, but the air is reasonably warm. When I have advanced nearly to the front wall, Mr Fresco approaches from the direction of the school, with his two little daughters. He is the driver of the dark 55-registration saloon car which for a short while has been parked alongside the front lawn. The younger girl, who is probably five years old, is wearing a pink blouse or top. She has red hair and very fair skin. She clambers up onto the base of bay 4 of the wall, and says: “Hello,” in a tone of innocent friendliness.
“Hello,” I echo, but in a noncommittal tone.
Her father tells her: “Emily, get down from the wall.” She does so.
Mr Fresco and I chat briefly. He is planning to mow his lawn before the rain arrives.
At 18:51 the sky is cloudy and rather dull.